There has always been a lot of incorrect information about what the CIA is and is not allowed to do domestically. I’ve seen some individuals write that it is illegal for them to operate inside the United States at all – which makes it hard to explain why there were telephone numbers for the CIA in all our major metropolitan cities. And if you think about their role in intelligence collection for a bit, you realize that essentially writing off contact with all American’s who travel overseas, who work inside the nation’s borders with foreign businesses, or are in contact with foreign diplomatic personnel would mean abandoning serious sources of information.  The same would apply for choosing not to monitor known or suspected foreign agents – certainly the FBI would have a role in criminal actions by such individuals (as in espionage) but political action and various types of psychological warfare are not criminal, just dangerous (and informative).

For a better idea of what the CIA was did domestically during the Cold War, and some insight on where they crossed the lines, I would suggest a reading of the Rockefeller Committee findings on the subject:

https://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/rockcomm/pdf/RockComm_Chap15_Domestic.pdf

What is of most interest to those interested in the JFK Assassination has to do with the CIA’s legitimate role in collection of foreign intelligence inside the United States – specifically in regard to what should reasonably have been its interest in Lee Harvey Oswald. Given Oswald’s time inside Russia, he would have been a valuable source for insight on a variety of Russian protocols and practices, not to mention the basic open source information he would have picked up living in Russian and working in a Russian factory. Sources on such things were not all readily available in the early 1960’s.

Certainly it would be reasonable to find a Domestic Operations file on Oswald, with material collected by that division and also material copied from other groups – for example, pertaining to his travel to Mexico and his contacts with the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City, valuable information given those two embassies were major CIA intelligence targets. Yet as far as I can tell, after contacting some very knowledgeable researchers, we find no Domestic Operations file on Oswald and no obvious circulation of Oswald documents to that group. In fact one of the mysteries that emerges is that we appear to have paid so little attention to Domestic Operations that it is not quite clear that we even know what that distribution code should be…still working on that one.

What we do know, and if you have SWHT 2010 you will find it in Chapter 20: Loose Ends, is that a Domestic Operations officer in Dallas, J.Walton Moore, contacted a voluntary source, Goerge D. Mohrenschildt, who was well embedded within the Dallas Russian expatriate community in regard to a couple coming to Dallas from Russia – Lee and Marina Oswald. We know that D Mohrenschildt did so, became friends with the Oswald’s and apparently encouraged – and likely funded – Oswald’s hiring of a secretary to prepare a journal of his time in Russia. In one aspect that journal (never fully completed nor published) served as a very effective and extended debriefing document on Oswald’s time in Russia. Certainly the sort of thing valued by the CIA. However apart from that we find no direct contact by Domestic Operations with Oswald (we do find several FBI contacts) and as noted above, apparently no Domestic Operations documents on Oswald at all. 

Did Domestic Operations pass up on a source which would have been fully within their authority and part of their standard tasking?  Did they not even attempt a contact?  Or for some strange reason did they have to obtain the information they would normally ask for via a cut out?  For that matter, did the HSCA or the ARRB not even make an inquiry about Domestic Operations files on Oswald?

We often discuss the significance of “holes” in the record – if it is true that there was no Domestic Operations file or documents on Lee Oswald, and they were never copied on any of his activities during his return from Russia, his contacts with the Russian and Cuban embassies, or his time in Mexico, it certainly raises some questions – including whether the research community should be spending time looking at a group within the CIA we know about but have largely ignored.

I suppose – based on one of my more recent posts – I should also note that circa 1962/62, the senior CIA officer in charge of Domestic Operations was Tracy Barnes.

5 responses »

  1. jim smith says:

    Larry–As I understand it, J. W. Moore was an officer in the Domestic Contact Service, a relatively open and benevolent branch as contrasted with the very secretive Domestic Operations Division, which I think we still have little understanding of (Moore also had an interesting background, growing up as a missionary kid in China and later, as an OSS officer parachuting in to help rescue a large number of POWs in the same place he spent his childhood). Moore spent most of his career in CIA after 1954 in the small DCS office in Dallas. Are you saying the DCS was absorbed by the Domestic Operations Division after its creation in 1963? As well as Staff D (run by Bill Harvey) whose job was to perform black bag jobs on foreign embassies for the newly formed NSA? I believe Staff D (which of course included ZR/RIFLE) was part of Foreign Intelligence, right?

  2. larryjoe2 says:

    My source on this is not totally clear (Richelson); The U.S. Intelligence Community) on the relationship between the two domestic branches. It states that circa 1963 there were two domestic branches, one operating openly with its personnel identifying themselves as CIA and one operating clandestinely. The open branch was known during the period as either the Domestic Collections or Domestic contact service and did recruiting and open approaches to people who could be used as volunteers. The clandestine branch was designated as Domestic Operations and was only created in 1963. It developed covers, cut outs and would have been involved in clandestine approaches and intelligence collections as well as activities including financial and logistics covers that had to be set up inside the U.S. to support foreign oprations.

    As for J Walton Moore, he may have been officially within Domestic Contacts but given the apparently clandestine approach which took using a cut out on Oswald’s return, the question is whether or not Domestic Contacts did a bit of clandestine work on the side before 1963. Beyond that, given that Domestic Operations was a start up in 1963, a good guess is that some of the people already in place may have been used for clandestine work then as well.

    (and Staff D and foreign intelligence is indeed a totally different animal as you noted)

    My real question – and it is that; I don’t know – has to do with how Oswald was being treated by the CIA inside the U.S. We know he was repeatedly contacted by the FBI, but was there no Domestic CIA file on him at all, either in Contacts or Operations? Given Moore’s contact, it seems there should have at least been a file in Domestic Contacts so where is it – we know it happened. Was neither Domestic Branch copied on the various CIA reports regarding Oswald, after his return to the US or after his trip to Mexico. At this point it seems we don’t even have the distribution code for either so we can check, that would be an area of research.

    At a broad level we tend to talk about Oswald and the CIA in his overseas activities, Oswald and the FBI domestically but, as with ONI files on Oswald, there seems to be a l lack of domestic CIA information on him, even though we know for sure that Moore was informed about his return and was interested in getting information on both he and Marina. Just seems to me something is missing.

    • Jim Smith says:

      Thanks for your very illuminating reply. Something indeed is missing…We don’t even know what we don’t know! I don’t recall Moore having a truly candid conversation with anybody about Oswald even tho he lived the rest of his life openly in Dallas. I wish I would have talked to him, at the very least about his China experiences. I also passed up an chance to have a drink with David Phillips and a mutual friend at the Army-Navy Club back in the day. Talk about lost opportunities! Keep up the good work–I’m not getting any younger and I’m counting on researchers like you and John Newman to solve this riddle.

      • larryjoe2 says:

        It is indeed strange that we have all sort of missed this for so long – clearly someone did instruct Moore to monitor the Oswald’s upon their return so someone at CIA headquarters did have a file on him. Dallas Domestic Contacts should have reported on the work Moore did – even more so if Oswald’s manuscript was essentially a cut out effort to collect intel from him (that would have been a brilliant move).

        For that matter his manuscript is so negative about the Soviet system and Communism it would have been great stuff for CIA psy ops – and an indication he could be recruited. So who did receive Moore’s reports on contacts with Oswald?

        I have raised this subject with some of the best researchers and perhaps they can dig up a document trail, at least indicating Domestic Contacts (if not Domestic Ops) was advised on Oswald’s return and reported on him. My suspicion is that a Domestic Contacts file from the CIA is much like the FBI Dept Five counter intelligence file on Oswald that was destroyed in New Orleans. Everybody was paranoid about having been in actual contact with him…

        That does not prove in the conspiracy but it surely corroborates a cover up and failure to fully investigate.

      • Anonymous says:

        Outstanding, thanks.

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